Remember When Hurricane Florence Was Used To Launch A Personal Campaign Website? Mark Johnson’s www.ncsuperintendent.com

Remember that website Mark Johnson created to deal with Hurricane Florence 14 months ago that looked like a campaign website?

The one that he still refers to continuously in his glossy flyers and multiple emails?

Well, now that he is running for Lt. Gov. it makes even more sense.

From September 14, 2018 on this blog:

When State Superintendent Mark Johnson launched a new “personal” website (www.ncsuperintendent.com) this week that takes advantage of his title and position and negates all other personnel in DPI what he actually did was to create an unethically built campaign website using public resources.

Even if it was done with no taxpayer money (it was set up in GoDaddy.com) , branding it with a publicly held state department and using DPI’s actual site to advertise it is still using taxpayer resources to maintain the new website’s profile and reach.

And it is using the emergency that is Hurricane Florence to manipulate people looking at it and using it for information that the already existent DPI website provides without a bias to it.

This was sent out to DPI employess this week.

notice

It says,

Due to the potential impact of Hurricane Florence, DPI Technology Services will be following the guidance of the N.C. Department of Information Technology and shutting down the DPI data center at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 13.

The following services will be affected by the shutdown:

    • The DPI building wired network and wireless network
    • The DPI website ncpublicschools.org (NCsuperintendent.com and parts of stateboard.ncpublicschools.gov will not be affected)
    • HRMS – Human Resource Management System
    • NcWise Owl – Learning resources for the suite of HomeBase applications
    • NC-SIS – Learning resources for the suite of HomeBase applications
    • Financial and business applications hosted here at DPI such as Salary Compliance, Cash Management, Host on Demand and XNet would be unavailable within the building.

Ironic that the Raleigh area still has power and that every other state agency’s websites are still up and functional. And now people will have to go to a website that masquerades as a service but actually is a campaign site that only serves one person: Mark Johnson.

How can one tell if it is a campaign website? Every element of it is something that most campaign websites would have.

  1. It has links to social media outlets.

social media

2. It collects names and information from people to build a database for the upcoming 2020 election cycle.

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3. It highlights a priority list of issues that sound like campaign talking points.

priorities

4, There is a “get to know me” section to introduce himself to voters.

meet me

 

5. It offers press releases that are highly favorable to one person: Mark Johnson.

press releases

6. It offers plenty of “PR” pictures and running video for the one person that the website serves: Mark Johnson.

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7. One can request a “campaign” visit from the site.

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8. It’s a .com and not a .org. 

.com

The only two specific things that are missing that might make it the most blatant campaign website ever are that it there is not a “donations” page or a place to sign up to be a volunteer. And one cannot have those two things unless one has already declared to be running for an office which Johnson has not.

But that rumor mill has been running for a while and http://www.ncsuperintendent.com is not really hiding any intentions here.

And it’s launching literally without any other “DPI’ related site available because of the hurricane.

It smells like those hog waste pits that are being overrun by rising waters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Do You Get When You Cross a Lame Duck With A Professional Candidate? Our State Superintendent

Today Mark Johnson ended months of open secrecy by announcing his candidacy for Lt. Gov. of North Carolina using Trumpian buzzwords like “deep state,” Media Elite,”and “Establishment Insiders.”

But it doesn’t change the fact that we still have a lame duck in the office of state superintendent for the next year.

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(Quotes are from the N&O)

“North Carolina deserves a leader who will fight to make all government more accountable, more efficient, and more transparent.” 

Makes one think of the iStation contract and the purchase of those iPads.

“I’ve seen first-hand how bad state government can be. I’ve already been in the trenches fighting the deep state in state bureaucracy.”

Great, now he is talking about the “deep state” when his party controlled the governor’s mansion, had a supermajority in the NCGA for years, and actually had a State Board of Education when he was running for state super in 2016.

And the words” fight” and “Mark Johnson” have never collided in the same truthful sentence.

“…what’s best for the working families of North Carolina, not the Media Elites or Establishment Insiders.”

Which media elites? And aren’t the “Establishment Insiders” the very people who propped him up (HB17)?

Johnson referenced those fights in his campaign announcement, saying he’s had to fight against “Establishment Republicans and Democrats on the NC Board of Education” who’ve opposed his efforts to transform the state Department of Public Instruction.

Johnson didn’t fight. His handlers did. With taxpayer money. And it’s funny that Johnson calls others “Establishment” when at age 36 he is running for office the third time and each time was for a different office.

“NC DPI was a broken system focused more on protecting the Establishment’s status quo standards, tools, and strategies. They were content to stand in place rather than move forward.”

Actually DPI was not a broken system. It was simply handcuffed by the NCGA – you know, the “Establishment” that MJ wants you to think he’s fighting against but is really being a puppet for.

“North Carolina should be a 21st century leader, but we can’t do it with the relics of a 20th century bureaucracy. I want to take the fight to the next level. If you want more of the same, vote for someone else. If you want to continue the fight for change, vote Mark Johnson for Lieutenant Governor.”

Have you seen DPI’s new organizational flowchart?

reorg.png

 

And those changes that Johnson seems to talked glowingly about? Here they are.

  1. Johnson said that he conducted a “listening tour” around the state to gather ideas and to help craft innovations in classroom teaching. He said at one time that he would present those findings when that tour was over in the first summer. But North Carolinians have not really heard anything except some glittering generalities.
  2. Johnson said that he would decrease the amount of standardized testing that NC would subject students. But the current bill in the NCGA does not alter school performance grades and seems to place a more emphasis on the ACT.
  3. Johnson celebrated the “revamped” NC School Report Card website and further entrenched our state into a relationship with SAS and its secret algorithms. Furthermore, he made sure that a system that actually shows how poverty affects school achievement is more rooted in NC.
  4. Johnson celebrated the launching of  NC School Financial transparency website and again further entrenched our state into a relationship with SAS. And that’s ironic because Johnson has been rather “nontransparent” with how he has spent money and financed contracts.
  5. Johnson called for an audit of the Department of Public Education. And that million dollar audit to find wasteful spending actually showed that DPI was underfunded. So…
  6. Johnson did a reorganization of DPI and replaced high ranking officials with loyalists from the charter industry and made them only answer to him and not the State Board of Education.
  7. Johnson’s reorganization came after he won an empty lawsuit against the state board over having more powers over the DPI budget. That lawsuit lasted until the second summer of his term.
  8.  Johnson seemed rather complicit with the legislature cutting the budget for DPI while he was actually taking taxpayer money to fight the state school board over the power grab that the NCGA did in a special session that gave him control over elements of the school system that the voting public did not actually elect him to have.
  9. Johnson rallied for school choice advocates and never rallied with public school teachers. In fact, on May 16th, 2018 he left town. On May 1st, 2019, he never met with teachers.
  10. Johnson had such an acrimonious relationship with the state board that three of them resigned their posts before the expiration of their terms so a governor from the other political party could appoint members to oppose the agenda of the people enabling Johnson.
  11. Johnson bought 6 million dollars worth of iPads for some teachers. They never requested them. And the money came from where?
  12. Johnson supported both the extensions and renewed investment of two failed initiatives: Read to Achieve and the NC Virtual Charter Schools.
  13. Johnson championed the Innovative School District which to date has one school. One. And will now have its third superintendent. And the second principal. And a failing school performance grade.
  14. Johnson has set up a personal website to act like a website for information about his job and initiative, but really looks more like a campaign website. And he used a hurricane as the reason for doing it.
  15. Johnson has used questionnaires and surveys to literally gather information that was already known. In fact, just this past week, he told us that teachers and parents do not like all of this testing.
  16. Johnson hosted Jeb Bush in the summer of 2018. Jeb Bush is a leading privatization champion of the public school systemics in the nation.
  17. Johnson said he would eat doughnuts and run a mile or two for us. Doughnuts.
  18. Johnson held a private dinner to make announcements about public education in February of 2018. He launched his #NC2030 initiative. Not really been talked about since.
  19. Johnson used a for-profit company to “allow” teachers to get “supplies” for the new school year. Class Wallet – this will hurt local districts because now things can not be bought in bulk and have to be purchased through more laborious channels.
  20. Johnson has championed Read to Achieve. It is a failed initiative – not because of the vendors, but because of its design and implementation.
  21. Johnson unilaterally decided to sign a contract with iStation. And he still hasn’t come clean about all of that.

The man who spent less than two calendar years as a teacher and who never finished his term as a school board member is now ramping up a campaign for the second highest office in the state while not having even finished his term as a state superintendent.

He’s a professional “candidate” who claims to fight against the “Establishment.”

He is still a lame duck of an educational leader.

And I can’t wait to hear what DPI employees say about him when he is gone.

 

 

 

SIGN THE PETITION! Take Action To Demand That The NCGA Passes A Budget That Will Meet The Needs Of Our Students, Schools And Communities.

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On Wednesday, November 13th, the NCGA has the opportunity to make a choice.

Will they provide adequate funding for public education?

Or will they continue to starve our schools while providing tax cuts for wealthy corporations?

North Carolina’s educators and families are ready for action. We’re emboldened by the unity of educators and communities in Los Angeles and Chicago. We’re inspired by the electoral wins of our neighbors in Virginia and Kentucky. Those victories were the result of years of sustained organizing and strategic action. Let’s take this next step together, for our students and for each other.

Please take action to demand that the NCGA passes a budget that will meet the needs of our students, schools and communities.

Once you have signed this petition, we ask that you set a goal of getting 75% of your co-workers to sign it. Our numbers are our power – when the majority of our school employees act together, we represent a major political force. You can also use the print version of this petition and then enter your signatures here. Join our webinar November 11 or contact info@organize2020.org for support!

I signed a petition on Action Network telling North Carolina General Assembly to Who will the NCGA take care of – kids or corporations?.

On Wednesday, November 13th, the NCGA will reconvene to make a choice. Will they provide adequate funding for public education? Or will they continue to starve our schools while providing tax cuts for wealthy corporations? We are calling on all educators and supporters of public schools to take the following actions together to ensure the NCGA makes the right decision:

1. Print out this petition and get 75% of your co-workers to sign it. Our numbers are our power – when the majority of our school employees act together, we represent a major political force. Once you reach 75%, please visit our campaign page to find a data entry form or contact info@organize2020.org for help!

2. Circulate this online petition through email and social media. This will help us spread the word as widely as possible.

3. Organize a #Red4Ed picket at your school on Wednesday, November 13 Demonstrate public support by encouraging all staff, students, and families to wear RED and meet before school hours. Here’s a simple guide to tell you how. Join our webinar at 8 pm on Monday, November 11 to connect and prepare! North Carolina’s educators and families are ready for action. We’re emboldened by the unity of educators and communities in Los Angeles and Chicago. We’re inspired by the electoral wins of our neighbors in Virginia and Kentucky. Those victories were the result of years of sustained organizing and strategic action. Let’s take this next step together, for our students and for each other.   In This Together, NCAE Organize 2020 Racial and Social Justice Caucus

Can you join me and take action? Click here.

Thanks!

How Can Phil Berger Be “Pro-Teacher” When He Does Not Even Support Public Schools?

No Senate budget in the state of North Carolina gets released without Phil Berger’s approval.

And the one he has been trying to  pass does nothing to help relieve what has been ailing public education in NC.

If the NC Senate’s budget has its way:

  • Schools will still be judged by the 80/20 formula where the %80 is achievement. NC is the only state where achievement is over half of the formula.
  • No graduate pay restoration.
  • No longevity pay restoration.
  • No Medicaid expansion.
  • No minimum wage for school employees.
  • More money for vouchers.

If you do not think then prove it otherwise. Just look at the voting records of people in his party and you will see that he controls the rank and file. And if you want to make the argument that a post like this is targeting a certain political party, then it sure is. But this is not the party that my grandparents knew. This is the party that has drifted from its roots of supporting strong public schools in this state and done what Phil Berger dictates.

Under the leadership of Sen. Phil Berger, the NCGA has done this to public schools in North Carolina:

  1. Teacher Pay – Manipulated raises to make it appear that the “average” teacher salary raise is higher than “actual” raises.
  2. Removal of due-process rights – Teachers who are not protected by due-process will not be as willing to speak out because of fear.
  3. Graduate Degree Pay Bumps Removed.
  4. Push for Merit Pay and Bonus Pay – The bottom line is that merit pay destroys collaboration and promotes competition.
  5. Health Insurance and Benefits – Simply put, health benefits are requiring more out-of-pocket expenditures, higher deductibles, and fewer benefits. Legislation has also taken away retirement health benefits for those who enter the profession now.
  6. Attacks on Teacher Advocacy Groups (NCAE) – Seen as a union and therefore must be destroyed, the North Carolina Association of Educators has been incredibly instrumental in bringing unconstitutional legislation to light and carrying out legal battles to help public schools.
  7. Revolving Door of Standardized Tests – Like other states, we have too many. Such a revolving door makes the ability to measure data historically absolutely ridiculous.
  8. Reorganization and a Weakening of the Department of Public Instruction – It all started with HB17 that was “passed” in a special session of the North Carolina General Assembly after the 2016 elections and before the new terms began.
  9. Less Money Spent per Pupil – When adjusted for inflation.
  10. Remove Caps on Class Sizes – The math is simple: more students per teacher.
  11. Jeb Bush School Grading System – This letter grading system used by the state literally shows how poverty in our state affects student achievement.
  12. Cutting Teacher Assistants –  NC has lost nearly 7500 teacher assistant jobs in the last ten years.
  13. Opportunity Grants – Opportunity Grant legislation is like the trophy in the case for the GOP establishment in Raleigh. It is a symbol of “their” commitment to school choice for low-income families. But it is the least transparent system in the nation.
  14. Charter Schools – Many charters abuse the lack of oversight and financial cloudiness and simply do not benefit students. Especially in rural areas, uncontrolled charter school growth has been detrimental to local public schools.
  15. Virtual Charter Schools – There are two virtual charter academies in NC. Both are run by for-profit entities based out of state. Both also have rated poorly every year of their existence.
  16. Innovative School District – Only one school is part of this ISD which has its own superintendent and was really was never wanted in the first place.
  17. Reduction of Teacher Candidates in Colleges – At last report, teaching candidate percentages in undergraduate programs in the UNC system has fallen by over 30% in the last five years.
  18. Elimination of Teaching Fellows Program – Once regarded as a model to recruit the best and brightest to become teachers and stay in North Carolina was abolished because of “cost”. Yes, it was reintistited, but as a shadow of its former self.
  19. Class Size Chaos – It was never funded by the NCGA.
  20. Municipal Charter School Bill – Passed as a local bill, it now has gone statewide to literally allow for segregated schools.
  21. A Puppet of a State Superintendent – If someone wants to make an argument for how great a job Mark Johnson has done, then I am ears.

There is more.

Too many kids are hungry and poor in this state. ALEC style reforms have not worked. Veteran teachers are being ignored.

The graphics below chart actual data during the time that Phil Berger has been leader of the NC Senate.

 

graphFrom the recent Public School Forum of North Carolina’s report on top ten issues in NC education.

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teacherpay2019

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View image on Twitter

Source: Kris Nordstrom

295 to teach3

Image result for nc virtual charter school performance grades

parmenter graphic 2 take 2 jpegparmenter graphic 1 take 2 jpeg

taxesscott1

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senatebudgetvouchers

 

The Absolute Fake Sincerity Of Phil Berger Concerning Teacher Raises – Remember What He Took Away

It’s hard to take Sen. Phil Berger’s gesture to raise teacher salaries and add on a bonus this past week as anything but sincere.

For someone who has been touting how he is so “pro-teacher,” he seems to want you to forget how much he has really taken away from teachers.

berger statement.PNG

Simply put, Sen. Berger has spent so much time trying to condition the public about how much has been done for teachers when in actuality what he is doing is simply giving back in smaller portions some of the very things he has helped to take away from teachers.

And he expects that to be forgotten as he tries to use smaller raises than the governor proposed to lure the public into thinking that he is being pro-public education?

A website appeared on the landscape in 2016 that expanded on Berger’s timeless BS and it is still being pushed out. Here is the home page for www.ncteacherraise.com.

And it a wonderful example of legislaining in eduspeak.

teacherpayfacts1.PNG

And with some red, white, & blue spin, he presented this:

teacherpay4

But he fails to tell you he spearheaded a North Carolina General Assembly that took away graduate degree pay and due process rights from newer teachers and longevity pay from veteran teachers.

Below is the salary schedule for a teacher in North Carolina for the 2018-2019 school year. Because of the current stalemate in budget negotiations, it is currently the salary schedule for the 2019-2020 school year.

schedule4

Any teacher new to the profession in the last four years would never be on the second schedule because newer teachers are not allowed a pay bump for graduate degrees. Notice how the salaries also plateau after year 15.

There is no longevity pay included as it does not exist for teachers any longer.

And remember that the average pay that people like Mark Johnson, Phil Berger, and Tim Moore like to brag about includes local supplements that the state is not responsible for.

Now go back ten years.

schedule1

schedule2

Ten years ago each salary step would have had an increase in pay.

All teachers, new and veteran, would have had graduate degree pay ten years ago.

All veteran teachers would have received longevity pay ten years ago above and beyond what the salary schedule said.

Yet Berger wants to tell you that what he is offering is beyond grandiose.

According to the 2008-2009 salary schedule, a person with my experience and credentials would be making more than someone with the same experience and credentials today – even with Berger’s new “proposal.”

And that doesn’t even being to help veteran teachers recover what they have lost since Berger has been in office.

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No One Who Champions Betsy DeVos Should Be Governor of NC

Over 50% of the state budget for NC is spent on public education. Currently it stands around 56-57%.

And yes that is above the national average. And there is a reason for that.

Catherine Truitt, current chancellor of Western Governor’s University in NC, is considering her own run for state superintendent in 2020. As the senior education advisor for Gov. McCrory, she penned an op-ed posted on EdNC.org on March 25, 2016 entitled “The truth on education spending.”

“The truth is, total K-12 funding has increased each year of Gov. McCrory’s administration and North Carolina now spends 57 percent of its state budget on education, far higher than the national state average of 46 percent.”

This is the same argument that Rep. Hardister made on Sept, 3rd, 2015 on his blog The Hardister Report. He talked of three sources of financing for NC public education – federal, state, and local. Both Truitt and Hardister are right; 57 percent is far higher than the national average. But that’s because it is supposed to be. The state constitution declares it.

The Public School Forum of North Carolina’s publication the 2014 Local School Finance Study provides a great history of the state’s practice in funding public schooling which is rooted in the proclamation that all children in the state ages 6-21 are guaranteed a good public education.

However, I do want to point out that before we had a “Republican governor and a Republican-controlled legislature,” the state spent an even higher percentage on public education because THAT IS WHAT THE STATE CONSTITUTION DECLARED. As I stated to Rep. Hardister in 2015,

“…those percentages of spending are not a badge of honor that this General Assembly gets to wear; it was earned many decades ago. The fact that the percentage is getting lower actually is not a positive sign for this administration. It is a reflection that the NCGA’s level of commitment to public education is wavering. Since most of the state funding goes to salaries of certified and classified employees, the fact the percentage of funds from the state is not higher than it was in years past is indicative of the stagnated salaries NC gives to teachers and assistants. With the elimination of funds for professional development and talk of cutting numbers of teaching assistants, how can you brag about the level of money spent on public schooling?”

Also lost in this is the uneven fashion in which money from the state is actually dispersed to LEA’s on the county and city levels. One of the more cohesive explanations of North Carolina’s state funding practices is a publication by the Center for American Progress entitled “The Stealth Inequities of School Funding” produced in 2012. It summarizes our state’s practices in a fairly concise manner, especially on page 46.

When Dan Forest recently made known his education platform for his run at the governor’s office, he talked a lot about putting the state’s money for public education into the hands of parents who want to send their children to private schools as well as helping funnel more resources into charter schools.

foresteducation plan

Forest’s plan really mirrors that of another privatizer – Betsy DeVos. And Forest has made no secret that he is a fan of the absolute worst Secretary of Education that this country has ever endured.

In July, DeVos was in North Carolina to tout her new program about school choice. As reported by the News & Observer,

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest promoted a new federal school choice program Wednesday that could allow more families to attend private schools or to homeschool their children.

The N&O article quoted Kris Nordstrom who offered probably the most succinct critique of this new DeVos initiative.

Locally, Kris Nordstrom, education finance and policy consultant for the N.C. Justice Center’s Education and Law Project, said the proposed scholarship program is a terrible idea. He said it will likely result in more money going to help subsidize the tuition costs for parents who would have sent their children to private school anyway.

“We know that where we have these voucher programs we will be subsidizing religious extremist, anti-LGBTQ hate groups,” Nordstrom said in an interview Wednesday. “Schools that tell students dinosaurs walked with man, schools that tell students slavery wasn’t that bad.”

Nordstrom questioned the timing of the new program when DeVos is also talking about federal education cuts for initiatives such as afterschool programs and teacher training. DeVos attributed the cuts to Congress wanting the federal government to “tighten the belt.”

Nordstrom called Wednesday’s visit a “clown show all around” designed to help boost Forest, who is running for governor in 2020.

Nordstrom’s tweet later in the day clarified a little more about that “clown show.”

clown show

That license plate idea was an idea from back in 2015. The plates were to look like this.

plate1

The demand never reached 500 to start the production.

Forest is aligning himself more and more with Betsy DeVos. This is from last June.

forestdevos

It is ironic how Forest can be so anti pro-choice and so pro-school choice at the same time. But that is exactly what Betsy DeVos is as well.

At the end of June, 2019, Peter Greene, who writes the well-known Curmudgucation education blog wrote a piece for Forbes.com entitled “How School Choice Undermines Democratic Processes.”

In this very well-explained piece, he talks about something akin to what DeVos was pushing in North Carolina today – the Tax Credit Scholarship.

But Tax Credit Scholarships disempower taxpayers even further by putting the purse strings in the hands of wealthy individuals and corporations.

A TCS system essentially lets those folks give their dollars to schools instead of using the money to pay their taxes. In effect, the donors fund schools directly, rather than through tax dollars paid to the state (meanwhile, the state’s tax revenue drops a commensurate amount).

 

 

69 Schools “Qualify” To Be Taken Over By The Innovative School District – Not A Single One Is A Charter School

Yesterday, DPI released a list of 69 schools in the state that would qualify for inclusion in the Innovation School District.

isdschoollist

The “School Performance Scores” for each of these “chosen” schools ranges from 25 to 40. Actually only one school is below 30.

25 – 1 school
30 – 2 schools
31 – 4 schools
32 – 1 school
33 – 7 schools
34 – 8 schools
35 – 4 schools
36 – 7 schools
37 – 10 schools
38 – 4 schools
39 – 14 schools
40 – 7 schools

AND EVERY ONE OF THOSE SCHOOLS ON THAT LIST IS A TRADITIONAL PUBLIC SCHOOL.

THERE IS NOT A SINGLE CHARTER SCHOOL ON THERE. And there are many who would qualify based on their School Performance Grades and Scores.

isdschoollist3

In fact, there are five charter schools that have a score below 30.

There are those two virtual charter schools that have not very well in the past, but were renewed by the state for another four years and championed by Mark Johnson. Here are their grades and growth by subset groups.

reforms3reforms2

reforms1

NC Virtual Academy:

1 – F
6 – D’s
2- C’s
5 – Not Met’s
1- Met

NC Cyber Academy:

4 – F’s
4 – D’s
1- B
6 – Not Met’s
0- Met

Here is the only school that has currently been serviced by the Innovative School District:

isdschoollist2

reforms4

Southside Ashpole Elementary:
4 – F’s
Everything else is an “I” which stands for “Insufficient Data.”
1 – Not Met’s
2 – Met

Here is the data of charter schools versus traditional schools as far as growth is concerned (courtesy of Kris Nordstrom).

reforms6

So why are there no charter schools designated to be taken over by a failed reform? Ask Mark Johnson.

But he’s unusually quiet right now. I have only received one email from him in the past three weeks.

Dan Forest’s Education Platform: Puritanically Privatizing NC’s Public School System With Vouchers

Today, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest released his plan for expanded school choice as part of his platform in running for governor.

Actually, Forest has been running for governor for years as most of his actions as the state’s “second in command” has been focused on campaigning against the current governor, Roy Cooper.

While Forest’s complete education platform revolves around 4 main cogs, he chose today to mostly reveal his wish to provide any family in NC a chance to use a voucher to go to a private school – in other words, expand the Opportunity Grant Program for all NC students.

The News & Observer reported,

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest wants to let every North Carolina family, regardless of their income, be able to receive a state-funded voucher to attend a private school.

Forest made school choice the central piece of his education plan that he released Thursday morning in his campaign to win the Republican nomination for governor in 2020. Forest said he’d continue to give priority for low-income families to receive the vouchers through a weighted selection lottery but would expand the eligibility criteria “to allow every family in North Carolina the chance to choose a school that works for them.”

“Parents should have a choice in education,” Forest said in one of a series of videos released Thursday to accompany his education platform. “They should have a choice where their students actually attend school.”

Simply put, Forest wants taxpayers to “foot the bill” to send any student to a private school in North Carolina.

Many public school advocates, especially the teacher who writes this blog, have argued that the Opportunity Grants are a detriment to public schools in that it takes public money meant for public schools and gives it to private, unregulated entities which can practice admission standards that would never be allowed in public schools and can offer curricula that is not aligned with preparing students for 21st success.

In fact, most all of the vouchers in NC are used to attend religious schools.

93% of vouchers used in NC when a 2017 Duke study was published went to entities that are affiliated with churches and are possibly housed within churches that do not have to give tax dollars due to religious exemptions.

And don’t forget that we as a state are already expanding vouchers by $10 million year until the year 2026-2027.

Under Forest’s plan, that total will probably go up.

Furthermore, the voucher system that Forest is championing is considered the least transparent in the entire country.

Duke study

There has been no valid method developed to show how effective vouchers have been in raising student achievement. Even the now famous NC State Study that many like PEFNC have pointed to in order to validate a shallow narrative concluded that the Opportunity Grants were intentionally nontransparent.

From  WUNC :

study

That sample they used? Over half were from established Catholic schools in NC which represent in reality a very small percentage of the voucher recipient pool. In fact, that study has been attacked so much from non-academics and academics alike that it begs to ask why it was done in the first place. That’s how many holes it has.

But Forest wants to give every student in NC a voucher to attend a private school. And as a member of the State Board of Education and a champion of school choice in NC for years, he knows damn well that most vouchers go to religious schools.

The quote below was spoken by the presumptive gubernatorial nominee for the Republican Party in NC’s 2020 election cycle at a church service over the summer. And just like others have done in the recent past, the use of a pulpit to campaign in even the most veiled of ways is not beyond Lt. Gov. Dan Forest. He has not been shy about his faith, and he has not been shy about mixing it with politics.

“No other nation, my friends, has ever survived the diversity and multiculturalism that America faces today, because of a lack of assimilation, because of this division, and because of this identity politics. But no other nation has ever been founded on the principles of Jesus Christ, that begin the redemption and reconciliation through the atoning blood of our savior.” – Lt. Gov. Dan Forest

Look at that word choice.

  • “Surviving diversity?”
  • “Surviving multiculturalism?”
  • “Lack of assimilation?”
  • “Identity politics?”

And look at the video.

 

How can that not be taken as an “us/ them” statement that screams opposition and “otherness?” How can that not be taken as a denouncement of our diverse society? How can that not be taken as an attack on those who are not white and Christian?

It’s rather appropriate that our “founding fathers” made sure in the Constitution to separate church and state and literally in the same breath established the freedom of the press.

And Forest should not forget that those people who founded the nation were hell-bent on not even approaching the slavery issue. In fact, it was agreed by the “founding fathers” that the issue of slavery was not to be dealt with for years to come.

The fact that Dan Forest wants to extend a program that has almost been used exclusively to send students to nontransparent religious schools to every student in the state can not simply be summed up as school choice.

It’s mixing church and state on a large scale using tax payer dollars of which none come from churches as they are already tax-exempt.

Reminds this English teacher of a time when there was no separation of church and state.

Image result for the crucible

Wonder if Forest has ever read this play.

 

 

Lawmakers Who Fully Fund Themselves But Not The Public Education System

The following is from StrongerNC:

The North Carolina Constitution addresses a right to education in two places:  

  • Article I, Section 15 says: “The people have a right to the privilege of education, and it is the duty of the State to guard and maintain that right.”  
  • Article IX: Education, has ten Sections. Of note is Section 2 which addresses the duty of the state and local government to provide a uniform system of free public schools “…wherein equal opportunities shall be provided for all students.”

There are also state laws that make education a right in North Carolina. One of them is N.C.G.S. 115C-1, which says:

“A general and uniform system of free public schools shall be provided throughout the State, wherein equal opportunities shall be provided for all students, in accordance with the provisions of Article IX of the Constitution of North Carolina…”

These provisions were tested in court when families from low wealth rural school districts sued the state for not providing an adequate education as required by the state Constitution (Leandro vs State). In 1997, the NC Supreme Court found in favor of the plaintiffs, yet to this date the state has been unable to remedy the situation after two decades of trying to figure out how to provide an equitable and adequate education, regardless of zip code.

Some progress was finally made in 2018, when Superior Court Judge David Lee appointed an education based non-profit firm, West Ed, to conduct a study and produce a comprehensive report with strategies for implementation by March 31, 2019. It would focus on three elements:

  1. Qualified Teachers
  2. Experienced Leaders
  3. Adequate Resources

Wendy Lecker, an attorney at the Education Law Center writes:

“In recent years, North Carolina public schools have experienced reductions in education funding, which, in turn, have triggered cuts in essential resources, including teachers, support staff and programs, especially in schools serving high concentrations of low-income students and students at risk of academic failure…”

Remember that the Leandro case documents are still under sealed orders but they may  be released in the future.

Consider that we as a state still spend less on per pupil expenditures when adjusted for inflation than we did before the Great Recession.

Consider that many of the lawmakers in this state make sure that they are fully funded.

From WRAL on November 6, 2019:

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger ‘s political campaign is buying him a home in Raleigh, and the State Board of Elections told him that’s allowed under North Carolina campaign finance law.

Berger’s campaign has paid at least $55,000 since August 2016 to a company he created, YPD Properties LLC. YPD is a property management company, and it appears to be a pass-through entity for campaign rent payments that ultimately pay the mortgage for a townhouse near downtown that Berger, R-Rockingham, and his wife bought in May 2016.

And from WRAL on October 9, 2019:

A powerful state legislator borrowed half a million dollars last year from a man later indicted and accused of trying to bribe another state official.

House Rules Chairman David Lewis said his farm in Harnett County needed help, and he turned to a friend and fellow farmer, John Gray. Gray loaned him $500,000 in June 2018 for what was supposed to be four months.

Deeds of trust filed in the deal show that Lewis and his wife, along with their farm and property company, put up land in four North Carolina counties as collateral. The loan has not been repaid, and Gray has not foreclosed on the properties as the deeds indicate he could.

According to both Lewis and Berger, what they have done to make themselves “fully funded” is completely legal.

Making sure that public schools are fully funded is mandated by the very state constitution that these two lawmakers are sworn to uphold.

But both have been more than willing to prolong the summer session of the NCGA while keeping teachers and education hostage just to see if they can get a veto override vote without everyone present.

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